17 Jun The Sign of Dragados
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"The Sign of Dragados"Written by
Estimated reading time — 18 minutes
The following narrative was discovered written on the pages of a sodden logbook that had been rolled up and crammed into a plastic bottle. The bottle was found on the shore of Easter Island on November 3, 1999, and its contents have since become the subject of serious interest among a growing number of academics, scientists, and anthropologists. Some claim it’s a hoax. Others claim it can be validated. But nobody really knows exactly what happened to the crew of six fishermen aboard the Miranda when it went missing on October 12, 1989.
The sodden logbook narrative reads as follows:
I first noticed the hideous smell of rotting crab shortly after sunrise on the morning of October 7, 1989, but the crew and I didn’t discover the source of the foetide until nearly dusk. The fog was heavy, the waters were choppy, and for most of the day, St. Mathew’s Island lay to the south of the Miranda. But aside from the godforsaken smell, it was an otherwise typical day of fishing on the icy waters of the Bearing Sea.
The guys on the deck—Harlow, Ethan, Farley, and Smith—had just finished reeling in the last crab pot of the day. Our cargo hold was slam-full of Alaskan king crab, and I would’ve liked to hightail it back to Dutch Harbor, unload our catch for processing and payment, and trekked back out north of Hall Island to catch more crab. But when the drifting ship loomed suddenly out of the orange haze to our starboard bow, it demanded our attention before we could depart, for it was massive, nameless, lightless, and floating aimlessly in the steadily darkening water.
From where I sat in the wheelhouse situated above the deck, I picked up the radio and depressed the PTT button.
“This is Zackary Leon,” I said. “I’m the captain of the America fishing vessel east of your portside bow. I smell trouble. No pun intended. Is everything okay? I’d like to know, over.”
I let off the PTT button, waited. I received no response.
“Please respond, over.”
No response. No nothing.
“I say again, this is Captain Z . . .”
I tried two or three more times. I tried flipping through the bands. But I never received a response. The ship’s navigation computer displayed our latitude and longitude coordinates at 60°37′ 51.9”N, 172°52′ 40.5”W. I jotted them down. Despite the blank spots that are like missing reels in the film of my memory and the lapses I fear have began to occur in my sanity, I believe the location I logged is correct, for the logbook in which I am currently writing this account is the same logbook in which I transcribed these original coordinates.
Once I had done all I could from the wheelhouse, I shrugged into the caribou jacket I kept hanging from the back of the seat and joined the guys on the deck below. The drifting ship smelled worse up close. It was still a little way off to the west. But I could already tell it was at least three to five times larger than the Miranda. I had no idea what it was supposed to be used for at first, either. It wasn’t of naval design, neither American nor Soviet, and it didn’t resemble a cargo or cruise ship.
“Probably it’s a floating factory or an abandoned pirate rig,” Ethan said. The guys nodded in agreement with this suggestion, and although I agreed with him, an abandon ship required an investigation. If we had glimpsed activity aboard it, we couldn’t have legally justified boarding it, but none of us saw even the slightly sign of life aboard it, and the horrible smell of the decaying crab ushering fourth from it indicated that something strange and possibly quiet terrible had befallen its crew.
I returned to the wheelhouse, and once I had brought the Miranda alongside the drifting ship, we tied off, gathered our gear, and boarded it.
Ethan, Farley, and Smith came with me. We carried flashlights, walkie-talkies extra batteries, a bag containing a few simple tools, and a first aid kit. We stuffed out mouths with chopped garlic to combat the smell, and we each carried extra garlic with us in our pockets. I left Harlow in charge of our ship. From the wheelhouse, he would able to both keep in contact with us via walkie-talkie and contact the Coastguard once it came time to notify them of the details concerning the situation we had encountered.
The four of us—Ethan, Farley, Smith, and I—crossed the deck of the other ship without incident and tried the first door we came upon. It was unlocked, we opened it, and the foetide that fell upon us was indescribable. We stuffed more garlic in our mouths. In the beams of our flashlights, the interior corridor before us stretched away into the stygian darkness.
“Is s-somebody in there?” Farley called.
We received no answer, save for the hollow echoes of Farley’s voice resounding back to us: “Is s-somebody in there?”
If there was anybody aboard, I feared they weren’t doing so well.
“. . . body in there, in there, there . . . ?”
I checked in with Harlow via walkie-talkie. Then we ventured into the corridor and made our way deeper into the foul-smelling confines of the ship. We relied on our flashlight to find our way, for there was currently no electrical power aboard the drifting ship.
In the galley, we found plates stacked neatly in the cupboards, a clean sink, and an undisturbed store room heaped with food, all of it a painted a perfect picture of neatness and order. Whatever had happened, it had not interrupted a meal, for even the tables were wiped clean. These details reminded me of the eerie tales and the proposed theories that surrounded the missing crews of ships like the Mary Celeste, the MV Joyita, the Zebrina, the Baychimo, and a British schooner named simply Jenny. I still remember the way Jenny’s captain was allegedly found seventeen years later in a chair with a pen in his hand, dead and frozen, perfectly preserved by the frigid weather of the Antarctic. The final message in his logbook had read: May 4, 1823. No food for 71 days. I am the only one left alive.
It’s the tales of old that haunt sailors and fishermen the most. Storms, monsters, piracy, anything can happen out here in the blue.
We found evidence of sabotage in the engine room. It had been done in a hasty fashion, as though whoever had done it hadn’t care if anybody noticed the damage as long as nobody could fix it. This struck us as extremely odd.
In the crew’s quarters, we found nothing of interest aside from a length of rope tied to a pipe running an inch or two below the ceiling. The rope was about an inch thick and frayed where it had been cut a foot below where it had been tied off. We didn’t know what to make of it at the time. The crew’s personal affects were all in order, the bunks were made tight, and the linen looked like it would smell clean if we weren’t chewing on a mouthful of garlic to combat the hideous smell of rotten crab.
We found the captain seated at his desk in his quarters, facing the wall and turned away from us. His head was lolled to the side, and when we spun the chair he was sitting in around so that he would face us, it became apparent that he had shot himself through the roof of the mouth with the revolver lying on the blood and brain splattered desk in front of him.
I picked up the revolver, wiped it off, and turned it over in my hand. It had a long barrel and a blue steel finish. It was a Colt Single Action Army, also known as the Peacemaker and the gun that won the west. I’d seen this particular make in more than a few Hollywood westerns.
“Do you know a lot about guns?” Smith asked, looking nervously at the weapon in my hand.
“No,” I said, flipping the cylinder open. It was chambered for .357 Magnum cartridges. Two of the chambers had cartridges in them. The other four were empty. I swung it shut with a flick of the wrist and glanced around the room. One spent cartridge lay on the floor beside the captain’s desk. Three others lay in the middle of the room, as though he had fired upon an intruder before retreating to his desk to take his own life. A few questions surfaced in my mind. Why was there no blood by the door? How did the captain miss three times at such close range? Can I be certain he missed? And why weren’t there any indications of the bullets impacting the door or nearby walls of his quarters? We had stumbled into one hell of a mystery.
Ethan had been checking the captain’s pockets for identification but had yet to turn up anything more than the name tag on the captain’s shirt which we could all read plainly for ourselves: Jón Sigurðsson
“This is really weird,” Ethan said.
“Why?” Farley asked.
“The captain’s Icelandic.”
“Why is that strange?”
“Iceland is in the Atlantic Ocean on the other side of the North America.”
I thought about this. There were all kinds of explanations. But the most logical one was that Captain Sigurðsson had departed from his country of origin to fish elsewhere.
I set the revolver to dead captain’s head, jokingly.
The dead man didn’t flinch.
“Where’s your log book?” I asked in a demanding tone.
The dead man didn’t say.
“Don’t make me blow your brains out a second time.”
The dead man didn’t seem to care.
I set my thumb on the hammer—
A strange thought ran through my mind: Do it, do it, do it, do it, do it . . .
—and cocked it back, as though I was trying to scare the dead man into thinking I was crazy enough to kill him again.
“Whoa,” Smith said, grabbing my arm, pulling me back.
“Yeah,” Farley said. “Calm down, Captain.
“What are you doing?” Ethan asked.
“Relax guys,” I said. “I was just kiddin around.”
Or was I?
I’m not so sure, not now that I’ve had time to think about it. I might’ve really been dead set on blowing another hole in that dead man’s head for not telling me what I wanted to know, which was funny because he didn’t have the ship’s logbook on him and we never found it. The whole idea had just sort slipped unbidden into my mind before I even knew it was there. In hindsight, Smith looked far more creeped out by this incident than both Ethan and Farley. I think he sensed the latent evil lying in wait quite some time before the rest of us did.
We headed down to the processing floor. Unlike the Miranda, this ship didn’t have to go to port to unload its catch. It was equipped with everything it needed to process and package its crab at sea, which allowed it to waste less time in nautical transit and stay out at sea for up to two months at a time. The processing floor smelled the worst, for it was packed full of hundreds of thousands of dead, dying, and decaying crabs in various stages of decomposition. They smelled stronger up close.
At the other end of the large room, we found a small room heaped to the ceiling with office furniture. The small room led to another larger room devoid of furniture but stacked full of bodies, each man seemingly dead by his own hand.
A blonde-headed woman in a white dress sat among the dead. She didn’t acknowledge our presence, and although she had a pulse and was breathing, her green eyes didn’t blink, dilate, or react to us in any way when we attempted to communicate with her. She could’ve been as young as nineteen or as old as twenty-three, it was hard to tell, for she was covered in bloodsplatter from head to toe. As far we could tell, she hadn’t been physically injured, and we were eventually forced to conclude that she was suffering from some sort of trauma-induced catatonia.
A closer inspection of some of the dead who were dressed in shirts, sweaters, or jackets with name tags on them indicated that the entire crew was of Icelandic descend and that the ship was possibly of the same origin, which both made exactly zero sense. I remember some of their names. But I don’t recall all of them: Ólafur Einarsson, Sævar Jónsson, Jakob Hjálmarsson, Eyþór Helguson, Sigríður Vilhjálmsson, Vilhjálmur Goðrúnarson . . .
We carried the catatonic woman back to our ship, and tried to contact the Coastguard, but ship’s long distance radio was on the fritz. We were unsure about how to go about cleaning the woman up at first, but Smith had done a combat tour in Grenada as a medic before he had joined my crew, and he didn’t feel uncomfortable undressing the woman and scrubbing all the blood off. I was just thankful somebody else had volunteered. I told Farley to set a course for Dutch Harbor and send him to relieve Harlow in the wheelhouse. Then Ethan, Harlow and I went to our bunks and retired for the evening.
I couldn’t sleep at first, for the scene of horrible massacre we had discovered remained fresh in my mind. I wondered if it had been carried out in a ritualistic manner, for what purpose, and what the woman had to do with it, if she had anything at all to do with the events that had transpired on that ship. I thought about many things: ships, seas, crabs, money, faces, men, women, knives, guns, blood, death, legs, thighs . . .
[the rest of this page is sodden and illegible]
When I woke on the morning of October 9, everything was fine. In the nightmare from which I had awakened, something unseen had followed me through the rust-encrusted confines of some great sunken ship. The lighting was dim and the overall ambience caused in me rising sense of impending doom. But by the time I dressed and went up to the deck, the nightmare had already faded too deeply into the background of my thoughts to trouble me. A pink sunrise was spreading across the eastern horizon, the sea had calmed, and we were only thirty-six hours away from Dutch Harbor. Ethan was in the wheelhouse, Farley and Smith were asleep, and Harlow was in the galley with the woman.
She ate if food was placed before her, provided somebody helped her get started, although she had to be coaxed into drinking from her cup periodically and then restarted on her food. She possessed greater competence when it came to using the toilet. Smith had dressed her in one of his T-shirts that was far too big for her, a pair of his briefs (Harlow told me Smith said there wasn’t anything else aboard the ship that would fit her waist and that he would’ve felt weird if he had just left her dressed in a t-shirt, even if it did hang almost to her knees), and a decent pair of warm socks. She didn’t look too bad all cleaned up, save for her constant blank stare.
I spent some time at the sink scrubbing the blood off the clothes that she had been wearing when we found her, and I eventually managed to get the blood off. It wasn’t apparent just how strange these articles were until they were clean. The dress, while it bore a slight resemblance a nightgown, was more form fitting, and laced up like a corset in the back to what I presumed was an exact fit. The clasps were made of some type of pallid god of which I had never seen before. Everything about it—from the stitched patterns of hideous sea creatures and alien-looking fauna that flowed all over it to old-timey yet otherworldly aspects—looked custom, handmade, and expensive. The under garments were just as strange. I wasn’t even sure what to call them, I’m still not, although I will state that they were extremely conservative for the modern era, not bloodied up too badly, and didn’t smell bad for the extent of the time that that woman most likely wore them. I called Harlow over to examine my finding, but he couldn’t offer a plausible explanation to explain the strange clothing the woman had been found wearing. In fact, he pointed out several even stranger things that Smith had found the night before that I hadn’t noticed.
The backside of the woman’s hands and part of her forearms were tattooed with the same designs as the dress, the blue ink clearly done by a talented hand. In addition to the tattoos, she wore two pale gold bracelets, one around each wrist, which appeared to be made of the same type of strange gold-like metal as the clasps on the back of her dress. The two bracelets were form fitting, too tight to remove, and were engraved with the glyphs of a language unknown to me that was too small and complicated for me to decipher, let alone copy. But, according to Harlow, that was not even close to the weirdest thing Smith had discovered the night before, for while the woman was sitting at the table staring mindless at nothing in particular, Harrow gently pulled her chair around so that she was facing us and pulled up the front of her T-shirt so that I could see the hideous scar on her stomach.
It was crescent shaped, like a backwards letter C. It ran from one hip along her pelvis to her other hip before it arched out along her right side and curved again under her ribcage. The scar was raised along the skin, thick, and jagged. Harlow told me that Smith had thought the woman may have undergone some sort of emergency surgery on some under developed island, which I thought made sense, but Harlow also told me that he had once seen a bizarre documentary concerning the mythology of the bygone people of an ancient island.
On this island, the tribal people had built several temples of cyclopean design that modern day engineers could not agree on the techniques used to construct. One of those temples was dedicated to what a linguist in the documentary had translated into: Dragados.
Dragados, according to Harlow’s recollection of the documentary, had been some sort of guardian who sought to prevent the passage of the ancient daemons that lurked in the dark spaces in the walls between the worlds. The people of that ancient island believed that if a woman suffering from daemonic possession should conceive a child, then the daemon would be able to enter our world by latching on and taking over the mind of their offspring. Because of this believe, the islanders removed the reproductive organs of much of their female population, which by extension lead to their demise several thousand years before the birth of Christ. Dragados, Harlow explained, had apparently appeared to an elder member of their tribal population in a dream and taught him just how the procedure should be done. Only a small percent of woman actually survived the procedure, for it was carried out without anesthesia or drugs to prevent infection, but the woman who did survive were often treated with regard to the daemon that was believed to hold sway over them.
Now, while this was both interesting and horrible, it didn’t explain why the woman sitting before me bore the sign of Dragados, for the hideous practice behind the mark in her flesh, if Harlow was correct, should’ve been discontinued over three thousand years ago. She also wasn’t of the correct ethnic descent. She was as pale as they come.
The rest of the morning passed without incident. The crew and I slept and took turns navigating and babysitting the catatonic woman. We didn’t have luck with the radio, though. It was down for the count.
Around noon, I encountered Farley in the short hall outside my bunk room. When I asked him what he was doing, he pointed to the woman. She was ten places ahead of him, sleepwalking. Unlike a normal person, she was more active in her sleep then when she was awake. It was creepy, the way her waking and sleeping states were reversed. Sometimes she mumbled things in her sleep, but the language was guttural and foreign to our ears, and we had no idea what she was talking about.
We were only twenty-four hours from Dutch Harbor when Ethan radioed me in the wheel house from the mechanical room. Smith had hung himself with a length of rope from one of the overhead pipes. His body turned slowly in a semi-circle, from left to right and back from right to left and so forth, the churning sea keeping his suspended body in a state of perpetual motion. We cut him down. Everybody except the woman seemed really shook up about it. It affected her no more than anything else did.
The Miranda’s navigation systems failed two hours later, my compass stopped working, and by the time the sun had set, risen, and set once more, it was apparent that we had missed Dutch Harbor. But if, we kept sailing east, I thought we would eventually find the west coast of the lower forty-eight. But when we were still sailing in the middle of open water three days later, I began to worry. On the morning of October 13, according to the ship’s navigation computer, we were located at the latitude and longitude coordinates 47°08’60.00”S, 26°42’59.99”W.
I didn’t know what was wrong with the navigational computer. It wasn’t possible to travel that far across the northern Pacific Ocean in such a short span of time and end up in the southern Atlantic Ocean. I mean it’s entirely possible to make such a voyage, but it would entail either utilizing the Panama Canal or sailing around the tip of South America, neither of which we could’ve done in such a short span of time. However, there are a number of possible explanations for the Miranda’s drastic change in location. We could be suffering from hallucinations brought on by exposures to some caustic chemicals aboard the drifting ship. Or the Miranda could’ve traveled through a rip, tear, wormhole, cosmic bend, thin spot, rose window, flesh interface, or some other type of currently undiscovered type of non-electric oceanic portal. Or the navigation computer could be malfunctioning. Considering that the radio was still on the fritz, the third one made the most sense, but it was also getting harder to deny the overall sense of wrongness that seemed to be hanging about the ship.
On October 15, two days later, I found Ethan dead in the mechanical room. He had slit his throat with a pocket knife. Harrow, Farley and I stopped talking soon after his death. We no longer trusted each other, or perhaps it was just a ruse, for they may have been conspiring to commit mutiny against my authority. It occurred to me on more than one occasion that I might have to resort to violence to keep my ship in order. It was an interesting thought.
I had another nightmare on the night on October 16, and when I awakened in the morning I felt quite certain that it could’ve actually occurred. In the nightmare: I awakened to a noise in the middle of the night and went up the deck to investigate it. From where I stood on the deck, I could see that something was not quite right in the wheelhouse. The windows were darker than they should’ve been and it appeared that some sort of monstrous figure was moving around on the other side of the glass. I was carrying the dead captain’s revolver and I decided to investigate this horror without fear, for I felt powerful and unafraid of the thing in the wheelhouse. However, upon opening the door to the wheelhouse, I found only Harlow and the woman. They were both asleep. Harlow’s eyes were closed and his body was still.
The woman’s eyes were also closed. She was sitting on his lap at an angle that allowed her to trace the contour of his jaw with one of her fingers. She opened her eyes and almost seemed to look at me and smile, and although I felt suddenly drawn to her by some sort of unseen power, I also felt repulsed, for there was something that struck me as predatory and reptilian about her eyes at the moment.
I thought a lot about what Harlow and I had previously discussed during the day, and found myself wondering several times that if by some circumstance the catatonic woman had been surgically mutilated by some practitioner in the same ancient ways practiced in the Temple of Dragados . . . then what daemon had they believed she harbored?
On October 17, I woke in the middle of night to the woman standing bedside my bed and suffered a bad fright, for before I realized it was only her, I thought I had glimpsed a hideously malformed piebald creature with a set of inhuman eyes peering down at me, crimson and hateful, but it soon dawned on me that it was only the woman, and I got up, lead her to the galley, and made her some oatmeal and bacon. No longer tired, I spent the rest of night trying to avoid Harlow and Farley. I didn t do anything else.
I never saw Harlow again. He may have abandoned ship, somehow. He was quite resourceful like that. However, shortly before dawn on the morning of October 23, I walked in on Farley doing something to the woman that I do not care to describe in graphic detail.
Later, after the sun had risen and set once more and I felt certain Farley was asleep, I crept back to his bunk room with the revolver I had taken from the dead captain of the drifting ship, for Farley had not seen me earlier, and I intended to murder him in his sleep.
But he was already dead when I returned. He had amputated his left hand with a [illegible] knife and bled out. I left disappointed, found the woman in the galley, and helped her into bed. I didn t do anything else.
I woke later that same night, disoriented and frightened, from a horrific nightmare that I could not immediately recall but that I have since suffered through numerous times. I checked on the woman. She was wide awake in her bunk, which had formally belonged to Smith, and she was staring at the ceiling when I entered the tiny room, unmoving and motionless, the contour of her body outlined beneath the sheets. I sat down on the edge of her bed and brushed a strand of blonde hair out of her face. She looked so peaceful and lovely that I just couldn’t resist. I didn t stay long.
[the rest of this page is sodden and illegible]
It’s November 1, 1989. The crabs have started eating each other. They’re dying and rotting now. I don’t care about the lost profit. I don’t care about the smell. I’ve been locked away in the tiny office located behind my bunk room since the night after I found Farley’s body. After I checked on the woman and returned to my bunk room, I felt distressed. I went to my office and I shut the door and I locked it. I’m not going back out there. I’m safer here. The woman has knocked on the door twice in the last hour, but mostly she is just pacing around out there, although sometimes she lapses into screaming fits, and on three occasions I’ve heard her weep and call out in a strange, guttural tongue that seems to be composed almost entirely of vowels. Although it’s foreign to my ear, her inflection strikes me at times as that of a dammed soul begging their creator to release them from their hell even if what follows is some kind of other inescapable hell of an even more permanent nature. She wants me to open the door. I won’t. I wish I still had some garlic, maybe a crucifix, or a shotgun. I would send her on her way if I could. But I can’t. I’m terrified. The thing out there trying to coax me out of here isn’t really a woman at all. I had it right the first time, the night I woke with her standing at my bedside. She’s a daemon wearing a false glamour that she uses to lure weak-minded sailors and fishermen like me. No, I shouldn’t say that, for there’s another—far worse—possibly. The woman might be simply a victim of daemonic possession, like those ancient islanders believed, scarcely aware of her surroundings, save for in the depths of her dreams, and she is probably halfway around the world to insanity by now, incapable of independent existence, even if a proper exorcism was arranged on her behalf. The daemon, the daemon, the daemon is female, for I have known her intimately in my blood-drenched nightmares over the course of the past several nights.
Now, to be honest, I’ve told a few lies in terms of omission over the course of this account, but by coming clean, I hope to convince anybody who happens across this account in the future to understand and believe that I don’t have the same luxury of choice in my nightmares that I have in the waking world, for when she comes to me in the odd hours of the night, she comes to me while I’m sleeping, and I cannot move, and I cannot deny her of what she wants, and then she is on top of me, lowering herself onto me, moving up and down, and her blonde hair bouncing about her bare shoulders, uncovering and recovering her pallid flesh. And then her features begin to melt and change, and she changes from woman to man to beast to abomination to daemon to devil and then to something so strange and ancient that my mind is incapable of comprehending the act of total annihilation that is being wrought upon my sanity. She may have been Adam’s first wife, Lilith, the mother of all vampires, and the first drinker of [illegible]. She drinks the [illegible] of her victims after they kill themselves, but she first devours their souls. She was ancient when this world was still young, and although the ancient islanders prevented her from crossing completely back over into this world, she will live out the eons with great ease, moving from one ship to the next, slipping and sliding—through means unknown—in and out of the beyond that connects the shores of this world to an infinite number of incomprehensible sister worlds. She also wants my [illegible].
I won’t do it again.
I still have the revolver!
[the rest of the page is covered in bloodsplatter]
CREDIT : Scott Landon